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Should I Worry About Heartworms? – Dr. Sharon Johnston


Did you know that the mosquito is the world’s deadliest animal?  The female mosquito transmits rife bloodborne infections and parasites that kill millions of people every year.  She affects our pets too.
Cats, including indoor kitties, can be bitten by mosquitoes and have heartworm larvae weasel their way into their bloodstreams causing severe disease and acute death in some cases.   There is no entirely fool proof way to prove heartworms are the cause of some cats’ respiratory disease and asthma, though we do have screening tests available.  The American Heartworm society has a clear recommendation to prevent heartworm disease in our pet cats.  Test them for heartworm infection and exposure (simple blood test) and start them on a monthly preventative.  And if you can’t test them, then start them on a monthly preventative.   Simple.  We have oral options and topical options available.  They are all prescription items so require at least a yearly exam prior to dispensing.  My cat, who is a bit of a pill herself, is stuck with the topical advantage multi, which is an excellent heartworm preventative, which she hates having applied.  But I’m the mommy, so that’s what happens.  There are chewable oral alternatives, which not many of our kitties take alternatively, but are available.
The dogs are easier. If you haven’t heard me be silly about the three meatball technique for those non-food motivated pooches….
1) Make three meatballs out of some soft squishy food your critter really likes.
2) Hide the medicine in the middle meatball.
3) Appetizer round – It is all in the marketing!  Give the first treat amidst great fanfare to get interest peaked.
4) Medicine round – give the meatball containing the medicine.
5) Now, don’t wait!  Before they can tease out the pill and eject it across the kitchen floor, give the third meatball rapidly so the second one goes down the gullet.
If your dog isn’t a good pill taker and the meatballs don’t work, then we have really great topical options. Once again, advantage multi is an excellent heartworm preventative, and is applied to the skin.
Great things about heartworm prevention, besides the obvious.  They deworm our pets monthly against several parasites that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, blood loss, and weight loss. Preventing these problems can mean less trips in to see us for no-fun reasons.  Some are zoonotic and can infect our children and grandchildren and cause serious disease or blindness.  And some of the preventatives also offer varying degrees of protection against fleas and ticks, which the approximately 85% of clients who I have asked should appreciate, as your pets sleep in the bed with you.
Some clients have asked me if they should WORRY about heartworm prevention.  I generally say no, don’t worry about it.  Just USE it!
Happy May,
Dr. J.
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